ORLANDO, Fla. (WSFA) - There has been no shortage of a good time for Alabama and Michigan at the Vrbo Citrus Bowl this year, but kids from Orlando might argue that Monday was the most fun.
"We're thankful to be here and have a good time with the kids. We're all excited to be here and just have a good time," said Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs II.
More than 200 kids of all ages partnered with players from both teams and spent the day at Fun Spot Amusement park for the annual "Day for Kids."
The program is called Lift Orlando, which encourages students to stay active in school. If they stay out of trouble and make good grades, they are rewarded by attending events like the Citrus Bowl
There were laughs, smiles, and a few tears, but the players made sure the day was about the kids.
“The players always prove themselves to be gallant gentlemen with these families," said Lift Orlando Executive Director Eddy Moratin. "The way they treat the kids, it’s just inspiring for the whole family to watch these young men who are being shaped by sports and competition into role models for the community.”
Events like these are great for the team because they give them a chance to bond and hang out one more time before the season ends, which is especially important to the upperclassmen.
“We’re here for a week, so we have a little time to just hang out with the team and bond and play around with some of these guys it’s their last time," said Ruggs. "It’s our last time together, it’s our last road trip. We have fun while we can, and when the game comes we treat it just like any other game.”
“It’s so cool because all we do is football every day and all day," added Alabama tight end Miller Forristall. "To come back and be able to do this with the kids and spend time with our teammates is a lot of fun.”
Ultimately, though, the focus is still on the game, and the Tide will continue to prepare how they always do for Wednesday.
“The bowl game is always a little different, but I don’t think the coaches – and I think Ruggs can attest – the practices have been the same as every year. We prepare for each game the exact same way. Coach doesn’t really change that,” said Forristall.
Both head coaches Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh will address the media one final time on Tuesday morning to give their final thoughts ahead of the game. Both squads will have one more practice before kickoff on Wednesday January 1st at 12:00 CT.